Friday, October 23, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Oct 23 - 25)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Paranormal Activity25.3+29%
2. Saw VI21.3$7,000 average
3. Where the Wild Things Are17.3-47%
4. Law Abiding Citizen11.8-44%
5. Couples Retreat9.5-45%
6. Astro Boy7.5$2,500 average
7. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant5.8$2,100 average
8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs5.6-30%
9. The Stepfather4.8-59%
10. Zombieland3.9-49%
11. Amelia3.4$4,200 average

1. After seeing the biggest October weekend ever, we have another exciting frame to follow, featuring Saw VI, the biggest horror franchise of the decade, vs. Paranormal Activity, one of the decade's biggest grassroots phenomenon. Two R-rated films, one epic battle at hand. One scary thing about the Saw franchise is its consistency. The last four all opened to between $30m and $34m, although the legs have gotten progressively worse, with the last one failed to break 1.9 in overall multiplier. However, except for the original film, which had to face The Grudge's second weekend, none of the others saw much direct competition when it opened. The circumstance is quite different this time. Not only there is Paranormal Activity, holdovers Law Abiding Citizen, The Stepfather, and even Zombieland are still attracting a good share of the male population. With interests being divided, Saw VI is having the worst poll numbers of the series at Box Office Mojo, as 17.4% Opening Weekend and 8.0% Sometime in Theaters are not much different from Halloween II's respective 16.8% and 10.3%. If there is going to be a Saw film that deviates from the norm, this is the best candidate so far. Expect a more subdued opening and a total around $40m.

2. So could Paranormal Activity be strong enough to beat Saw VI and climb into the top spot (something it had done during the midweek) for the weekend? The answer is a resounding yes. Last weekend, it added 600 theaters, a 375% increase, and saw its per-theater-average drop only 48% for a $19.6m total. By comparison, The Blair Witch Project had its PTA cut by 58% when expanding from 31 to 1,101 locations and then declined 57% again when almost doubling its count the following frame. With better word-of-mouth, Paranormal Activity should hold its average better again even with a bigger expansion. Look for it to avoid a 50% drop in PTA one more time for a $25m+ weekend.

3. Outside Saw VI, the other openers are on track to make little dent at the box office. Astro Boy has the best prospect of breaking over double-digit given the market is relatively open for family-oriented film. However, sci-fi or animated films based on popular Japanese cartoons that lack crossover appeals tend to not do so well in the U.S. Earlier this year, Dragonball Evolution opened to only $4.8m, and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was a big disappointment back in the summer of 2001. Astro Boy is unlikely to avoid similar fate.

4. Carrying a title that does not attract viewers outside its core fanbase, Cirque Du Freak is not going to bring director Paul Weitz what Twilight will do for his little brother. Having teenage females as its main audience, as well as being a fantasy, inflates its online signs. Its BOM polls are no better than what The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising had, and an average of 600 tweets a day during the week only indicates an opening day around $2m. The young girls are holding out for the big one in a month.

5. Although I always had suspicion about Hilary Swank's Oscar potential, the degree of Amelia's poor critical reception is still somewhat surprising given director Mira Nair's resume. Now its chance of nominations in major categories has gone down the drain, the box office prospect becomes much grimmer as well, since a historical drama on flying with no prominent male co-star (the marketing is certainly not banking on McGregor or Gere) needs that extra help to get people's butts into the theater. However, Nair has established her pedigree enough to bring in some fans of hers; Vanity Fair was able to earn a $4,600 PTA in over 1,000 theaters even with mixed reviews. Also there is currently not much else there for older females, so Amelia could still experience a decent weekend.

6. Where the Wild Things Are has behaved very un-family like since it opened, with a tiny Saturday increase and consecutive double-digit drops during the week. It is attracting a much bigger percentage of older and indie audience. The good thing is that no new films this weekend are really competing for that demographic. Hence even though it will remain frontloaded comparing to other recent family films, it could avoid a 50% drop.

7. As for the rest of holdovers, even with two R-rated films occupying the top, Law Abiding Citizen has the word-of-mouth to sustain its surprising run. In fact, it could help limiting Saw VI's potential instead of the other way around. The Stepfather will get hurt much more directly, and only the PG-13 rating may prevent it from dropping completely off the radar.

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